Lately, whenever I say to someone, “Oh, check the library.” I get this look, followed by something close to: “My library never has anything I want.” I’ve taken notice because I find myself telling people to go to the library more and more often these days. I can’t really blame them for their opinion on the library though, after all up until about a year ago I hadn’t borrowed a book in a decade.
Let’s be clear, that doesn’t mean I hadn’t read a book in decade, but simply I had been buying them instead of going to the library. Then, suddenly (sooo not suddenly), my Brooklyn apartment felt full to bursting with books and I decided I had to make a change.
I went into purge mode. I found a place to donate books. Some friends were even inspired to pare down their own collections. I set a strict rule that any book that stayed was 1) something I loveLOVED and 2) was in a desirable format; everything else had to go. And this extended to all the books in my house including graphic novels, comics, and manga; everything had to be reassessed.
After I decided to change my habits, I had to figure out a better way to acquire new material without filling up my house again. Because, let’s be honest, there was no way I could have stuck to my plans if I didn’t have a place to read new things.
The library saved the day. The library is amazing.
The last time I used the library for anything besides college studies was long, long ago. The method was completely different, the technology was nowhere near as advanced, and the way I found books was simply to go in and look around. Now?
The library is like Amazon but free.
All the books in all the library branches of your city are at your fingertips to browse on the library website. The listings have all the trappings too: cover image, summary, author information, and library records. You can find out how many copies of any book are available, where they are, or if holds have been placed. Users can rate, tag, and review any book. The site has a list of what new books have just come in. You can see what books are on order or request books that have been overlooked.
All of your records are there for you to review, too. You can make a shelf so you know what you’ve completed or what you want to read. You can create lists of titles. You can share or not share things with the community, and you can Tweet or post right to Facebook like so many other sites.
See a book in the system you want? You can place holds on up to 10 books at a time then have them sent to whatever your preferred branch is. When they arrive at your branch? You can have the library system send you a text, or an e-mail, or you can just check the website.
Do they have manga/comics/graphic novels? Yes, everything from Attack on Titan to Sakuran, from Ultimate Spider-Man to Mouse Guard, from Scott Pilgrim to Castle Waiting. Do they have long-running series? Yup, get your One Piece fix! Do they have the latest volumes? Sure, I have Kimi ni Todoke vol. 19 on hold.
I can search for “Shojo Beat Manga” or “Marvel Now” or “Psychic Ability — Comic Books” in the public library system, these are suggested search terms. Granted the system isn’t perfect, some volumes in a long-running series may not have all the same tags for example. However the title search will work just fine for such things. The point is, the amount of effort put into their comics collection is pretty astounding and it is growing all the time.
The fiction collections are, unsurprisingly, even more vast. New books are continuously being entered into the system, and I take full advantage of that. I haven’t used the DVD service too much, but I can tell you they have more Adventure Time than Netflix.
Does the library have everything? Of course not. So, sure, some things go on my “to buy” list if I want to try them out. But I have something like a 75% chance of finding any book I want to read at the library. I keep a list of everything I want to read so I know it’s true.
Now instead of the library being an after thought, it is the first place I head to when I hear about a book I want to read whether it is a novel or a manga.
It needs to be noted that I am talking about the Brooklyn and Manhattan Public Library systems, which I am aware are possibly going to house larger and more diverse collections as well as have more up-to-date technology than other places in the United States.
But my goodness, the library has really come a long way. I encourage everyone to stop assuming your library doesn’t have what you want and instead actually go to your library’s website and browse the catalog. Help your community; help your wallet.
As a final thought, I didn’t slay my collector’s spirit; I don’t want to. I simply reined that desire in. No one would walk into my apartment and think I have left material possessions behind. Heck, anyone besides me walking into my apartment probably can’t even tell the difference but the difference is huge I promise you. And yet, I’m reading more than ever.